Speak up, Shut up – how to influence in a meeting

So, your manager would like you to have more influence in meetings.

She says you need more ‘presence’. She wants you to make more of yourself and make more of an impact.

She wants more ‘oomph’.

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Well, that’s easier said that done, isn’t it? You do your best. You’re always prepared. You think you know what you’re talking about. Is that really not enough?

I know how you feel. I’ve been there.

I’ve written before about my younger days in overseas development when I used to have major ‘meeting meltdown’ on a regular basis. Any meeting I was in, my nerves would be jangling as I waited for my turn to speak. Then I’d squeak out some minor point I was sure everyone knew already, looking desperately around for reassurance. The lack of confidence was plain for all to see and I would say I had zilch influence.

It gives me the shivers just thinking about it

Luckily, I’ve moved a long way since those ‘meeting meltdown’ days. Nowadays, through my one-to-one coaching programmes, I help third sector clients in leadership and management roles push through this kind of challenge and learn how to have more influence in meetings and presentations with a unique seven-step approach including practical exercises and coaching.

The 7-Up Approach

  • Step 1. Gen Up
  • Step 2. Show Up
  • Step 3. Sit Up/Stand Up
  • Step 4. Speak Up
  • Step 5. Look Up
  • Step 6. Shut Up
  • Step 7. Wrap Up

All seven steps are important and together transform performance in meetings and presentations. One of the most powerful is #4 – Speak Up.

How to Speak Up

This isn’t just about speaking up, literally. Though of course when you breathe and project your voice you’re more likely to get your point across and get taken seriously than if you mumble and gush.

Speak up in a meeting2Speak Up is about truly knowing you have something of importance to say, that what you say matters, and that you are adding real value to other people. Then, it’s about how to say it clearly, succinctly and confidently. It doesn’t need bells, balloons and whistles.

Something to try

I encourage my coaching clients to have a go at this exercise to help them Speak Up with influence. In preparation for your next meeting, ask yourself:

1. If I was only able to say one thing in this meeting what would it be?

2. Why is it so important that I say it? (Think about how your point links with your organisation’s goals and values.)

3. Why is it important that it’s me who says it?

4. So, what is the most powerful way that I can say it? (Perhaps you need to illustrate your point with a quick story or image, or use the words of a beneficiary. How can you make it sound authentically you?)

5. Plan your exact words, and practice them, particularly your opening and closing words.

Over to you

So, how much better would you feel about going into a meeting now? Ready to have more influence? I’d love to hear your own tips for getting heard, or why, perhaps, meetings and presentations still make you feel small? Do please leave a reply in the comment box below.

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*Big thanks to my late Dad for the inspiration for 7-Up. When I was learning to give presentations for Christian Aid in the 1980’s my Methodist Minister father told me simply to “Speak up, look up, and shut up.” His advice has served me beautifully.

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